Getting inspiration

It's an old adage: the first step toward becoming interesting is to be interested. Artists of all kinds—illustrators, designers, writers, sculptors, musicians, playwrights—make the world their inspiration.

Learning to differentiate between what you like, what exists, and what is good is an essential skill. You can never read enough fantasy art books, but add to your reading list books on sculpture, architecture, and cooking; even boxing, archeology, travel, and math—it really doesn't matter, as long as they broaden your knowledge.

You can't make yourself get inspired. Like creativity, inspiration can't be forced; when it is, the results are bad. There are many ways, however, that you can encourage it. Inspiration can come from anywhere, in any shape or form. Obviously there are some places you are more likely to find inspiration, such as books, films, television, magazines, and comics—the staple diet of any fantasy artist—but don't neglect the less obvious sources. Make a mental note of anything that catches your eye—from people to buildings, fashion to nature—and try to formulate it into an idea.

1. Photographs Snapshots of friends and family can be used to get proportions and poses right.

2. Sports Any forum where athletes show off their prowess. Take a sketchpad down to your local track. Author recommendation: televised wrestling or ballet.

3. Comic books You need to study what other artists are doing, not to copy them but to assess the quality of your own ideas.

Author recommendation: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. Movies See the best fantasy movies, especially If animated or with spectacular effects. Author recommendation: The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein. Books Get a feel for the written genre, from Sword and Sorcery to Science Fiction. Read the classics (start with War and Peace), history, popular science.

Author recommendation: Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian.

Where do you get your ideas?

Fantasy artists are ail asked this question. Almost all fantasy art draws on what has gone before. The best artists bring together many different aspects of their own experiences and mix them into new combinations and concepts.

other sources

6. Sculpture Classical sculptures often have great physiques, and are worthy of study. Visit museums.

Author recommendation: anything by Rodin.

7. The Internet Easily the most streamlined and time-efficient resource. Personalize a library of bookmarks that give you inspiration. Author recommendation: online galleries featuring work by the "modern masters," such as Frank Frazetta and Moebius.

8. Art galleries A great piace to see how the Old Masters captured the human form. Author recommendation: John William Waterhouse or Dante Gabriel Rosetti.

9. Art materials Play around in a new medium. Doodle. Use sketchbooks to experiment.

10. Scrapbooks Clip pages of inspiring physiques from body-building and fashion magazines.

11. Figure reference manuals A Japanese series called Pose Files features hundreds of photographs of men and women in different poses, taken at different angles, and lit in different ways.

12. Recording devices Being human means that we forget things in the hustle and bustle of our own daily lives. How many times have you awakened in the night with an idea and forgotten it in the morning? Or found yourself saying: "I wish I had a camera," or "I'm sure I saw something about that recently"? Every practicing illustrator, without exception, carries at all times some form of recording device. This can be a sketchbook, a camera, a tape recorder, a video camera— whatever is most relevant to the area of interest. These are updated on a near-daily basis. Illustrators also keep scrapbooks of material that interests them. Often they may not even know exactly why, or how, the material will come in useful.

keeping an idea bank

• A scrapbook or box file is a great place for storing anything that inspires you, from written articles to visuals tear sheets.

• File your material using a system that works for you— filing ideas alphabetically may work for some people, but filing ideas thematically may work better for others.

• Keep adding to your idea bank and refer to it constantly, There may be something buried there that you had put aside for one project that might be perfect for another.

• If something grabs your attention, draw it, note it down, photograph it, or file it away immediately. Not only will your drawing and research skills improve, but over time you will have built yourself a "catalogue of inspiration" that can be drawn upon at any time in your career and especially when you are short of ideas.


Polaroid cameras offer instant reference, but for centuries artists have drawn their reflection in a mirror. Keep any photograph that inspires you and any that are distinctive. You never know when your grandmother's 90th birthday smile might come in handy!

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